Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fight like Hell and Ride like the Wind

As a teacher, I've always impressed upon my students that their actions speak louder than their words.

When I became a parent, I made this one of the cornerstones of my parenting. Your actions - not what you say - will reflect who you are and what you want to convey to others.

Yarden Frankl's actions are speaking.

As many of you already know, my best friend has stomach cancer. And while she fights each day to keep it at bay and to continue to give us that sparkly smile, we sit around feeling...well...helpless.

A few days before Stella started chemo, I asked if I could bring anything with me to the first treatment or do anything special. They couldn't think of anything, but Yarden asked, if I had time or if I could find someone else to do it, if I could buy some of those chocolate covered nuts that they both love.


I felt like a woman on a mission. I had something to do - something to keep me busy for five minutes - something that would make me feel I was doing something productive for the Frankls.

I showed up, proudly, to the first cancer treatment armed with chocolate covered nuts of some sort, and got pleasure out of watching Stella eat a few.

It became my little ritual to drive to the health food store on my way to chemo to make sure they had their chocolate fix on the day of treatment.

Then, a few treatments ago, when I dropped the chocolates into Stella's lap, she looked at me sheepishly and said "thanks." Never wanting to hurt anyone's feelings, she didn't say anything else. Yarden came back into the room and said, (in perfect Yarden fashion), "You know. Stella stopped eating those a few treatments ago. But thanks - I'm sure enjoying them."

When I stopped laughing, I realized that my little bit of "help" was over. I couldn't help feeling a bit like Mitch Albom who tells a similar story in his book Tuesdays with Morrie.

What could I do next, I wondered?

Recently, Yarden told us of a plan that was so outlandish - so crazy - that both Josh and I told him it seemed a bit far fetched. "You'll see...You'll see..." he said. "It's going to be great."

And we are seeing. He's putting his energy into something so positive, so full of life and so energetic that it's lifting the rest of us and giving us all a bit more energy. His crazy idea is really resonating with friends near and far and even with people who don't know them.

Yarden has plans for a 12 hour bike ride in just over 10 days to raise money for the Gush Etzion Foundation fund that helps families dealing with serious illnesses.

Please read Yarden's latest two posts - and Fight like Hell and Ride like the Wind with him (and with the rest of us).

It's the least we can do for Stella and for so many others fighting these terrible illnesses.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Woof Woof on the Lightrail

We had a great Sukkot and said goodbye longingly to the sukkah (and to my in-laws who were visiting) recently. While we had great fun in many locations, one event sticks out in my mind as so typically Israeli.

The first Friday of our vacation, we decided that it would be fun to take the new Lightrail into Jerusalem. We enjoyed the trip to town a great deal; it was clean on the train, nearly empty and comfortable.

The return trip, however, was another story. Trying to get on the train at 1:30 in the afternoon from the Ben Yehuda area on a Friday wasn't the smartest of ideas. Yakir, who is incredibly rigid with his sleep habits, hadn't napped all day, and I knew I was going to be in for a long ride as we entered the packed compartment. There was barely enough space to push through the crowd with the stroller, and I hung on as I stood with Yehuda and nudged my way aboard. Yakir was facing away from me in the stroller, and there wasn't an ounce of extra space. I had no idea how I was going to soothe him, let alone pick him up, should the need arise.

Well, I thought to myself, here we go.

As the train started to move, Yakir's whining began. Ironically, I smiled. Looking around, I knew exactly what was about to happen.

"Give him the bottle already!" said one middle-aged woman to Yehuda, my 9 year old who was standing next to Yakir.

When that didn't work and Yakir rejected the bottle, the real parenting advice began.

"Oy, you need to rock him."

"No," said another passenger, "Try the bottle again. I think he'll take it now."

"No," said another, "I think she's going to need to pick him up."

And on and on it went. Everyone on the train had a suggestion, and everyone was trying to help me to soothe my exhausted child. Yehuda worked on getting him out of the stroller, and two people jumped up from nearby to help since I couldn't reach the baby. Placed in my arms, Yakir arched his back and screamed so more.

"Here! Here!" yelled an older man, giving up his seat for me.

"No, I really can't take your seat...." I started to protest, to deaf ears.

I saw that no one was going to listen to me - and that I was going to take that seat whether I wanted to or not. A bit embarrassed by the fuss they were making over me, I took the seat.

Sitting was no better than standing, and Yakir kept at it.

That's when my seatmate made it her personal mission to get Yakir laughing. Playing peek-a-boo, making animal noises, and being generally silly, she finally got him giggling. Then, we started a very intellectual discussion about various animal noises.

"Dogs say "How How" in Hebrew," she said.

"Well, they say "Woof Woof" in English," I replied.

And on it went, discussing cat noises, rooster sounds, cow impersonations and more.

My seatmate exited, and it was soon our stop. Parting ways for us to exit, our trainmates wished us a Shabbat Shalom and blew kisses at the now-calm baby.

Now, I don't ride public transportation often in Israel, and I'm sure there are times when tired riders aren't so jovial or willing to help. But it sure was a lovely experience to see so many Israelis joining forces to help one exasperated mom and a tired baby on a crowded train ride one Friday afternoon.

The joys of life in Israel...again.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mushroom Shades

Thank Gd for my sense of humor. I think that it might not be a good idea to make Aliyah without one.

Yesterday, while at the beach, I needed to try to find a sun umbrella for my mother-in-law to rent. I couldn't remember the word for "umbrella," so I asked Matan.

Then, two minutes later, as I walked over to the kiosk, I realized that I didn't know the word for "rent." And, of course, I'd forgotten the word for umbrella.


But, I pushed forward, asking the lady, in my most dignified Hebrew, if she just might have a mushroom that we could borrow to create shade.

"Um, what?" she said, looking at me as if I'd come from outer space.

"You know, a mushroom (petria in Hebrew), for the shade for...what's that borrow for awhile."

I soon realized that what I was saying didn't sound right.

Red in the face, I slinked back to my family to describe what I had done. I quickly realized that I had asked her for a mushroom (petria) instead of an umbrella (metria).

When my children were able to pick themselves off of the floor, Matan agreed to go back to the lady and to ask for an umbrella himself.

With a twinkle in his eye, Matan arrived on the sand, handed me the umbrella and remarked, "Here's your mushroom, Mommy."

Just another day of adventures as an immigrant.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

The Sunsets of Our Lives

I'm often amazed by what I learn from my children, rather than the other way around.

Today, towards the end of Shabbat, Yehuda came running in from playing. I was engrossed in a book and Josh was reading the paper. We were both enjoying a few quiet moments while all of the kids were entertained or playing outside. Yehuda, breathless, said, "Mommy, Daddy! You have to come outside!"

Both of us, barely looking up, assumed that he wanted us to break up a fight or deal with some issue. We didn't move. He'd get over it, we secretly thought to ourselves.

"Seriously! Will you come outside?" He pleaded.

And so, we both got up slowly and followed him outside.

What did Yehuda need?

"Look up!" He said with marvel in his voice. "Look at the sky over there."

Following his finger, we turned to witness a breathtaking, absolutely gorgeous sunset of pinks and yellows, light blues and milky whites.

A sunset that I almost missed, trying to blow off my nine year old so that I could continue enjoying a good book.

And as I held the baby in my arms, looked at Yehuda's proud face, and enjoyed the glorious Shabbat sunset with my family, I marveled at the many and varied ways that we learn from our children; and at the missed opportunities that we often, unknowingly and unintentionally, create.

And I thanked Hashem for ensuring that I hadn't missed this opportunity.

And I thanked Him for reminding me that the urgings of a nine year old child are worth listening to.

And I thanked Him for giving me a nine year old son who notices the sunsets, and finds them profound enough to call the family out to see.